Browns not making any promises to Johnny Manziel
Dec. 30, 2014
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — While Johnny Manziel spent the first hours of his offseason relaxing in Miami, the Browns made it clear he's got plenty of work to do to be their starting quarterback next season.
One day after Manziel promised to change after being a disappointment and distraction, general manager Ray Farmer said he would not shy away from using one of Cleveland's two first-round picks in next spring's draft on a quarterback.
"I would not hesitate to take whoever I thought could help this football team and move us forward," Farmer said Tuesday. "The goal is win, it's not to draft any particular person or players, simply to win."
However, Cleveland's inability to win — the Browns just completed their seventh consecutive losing season — is directly tied to a failure to find a franchise quarterback. They've had 22 starters since 1999, including Manziel, who didn't distinguish himself in six quarters and was a headache with his off-the-field shenanigans.
Still, Farmer thinks Manziel can be a serviceable quarterback.
"I do think he can develop into a solid starter in this league," he said. "We all have got to be patient. I think there's an opportunity for the guy to make changes. It's up to him if he's going to make those changes, but I think the talent is in his body to accomplish that."
On Monday, a contrite Manziel apologized for oversleeping and missing a medical treatment for a hamstring injury. Manziel vowed to clean up his act, saying he needs to back up his promises or he'll look like "a jackass."
Manziel's comments were met with skepticism by many, including Farmer, who used the No. 22 overall pick on the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.
"The words don't mean anything," Farmer said. "I'm not a big word guy. It's all about action. . I do think that he cares. I do know he's competitive. I'll be frank and candid and say that it's obvious, but he does need to grow up some. Beyond that, I do think that there are redeemable qualities that can help him improve himself over time."
Only hours after leaving the Browns' facility, Manziel appeared in South Florida on a video posted on Twitter, wishing Cavaliers star and business partner LeBron James a happy 30th birthday. Farmer said injured players, including Manziel, are required to report next week.
Manziel's quick exit didn't help his cause, and raised more questions whether he's more serious about his celebrity than his career. Farmer said the 22-year-old will be in the mix to start but made no other promises to Johnny Football.
"He'll be given every opportunity to contribute and compete, and he'll also have to compete against guys that could be draft choices," Farmer said. "They could be free-agent selections. They could be any number of stones that we overturn to try to find the right guy."
So, the Browns' search for a quarterback continues. Here are other things Farmer addressed:
JOHNNY ON THE FIELD: Manziel appeared overwhelmed and ill-prepared during his limited playing time. His stats — 18 of 35 for 175 yards — were pedestrian and there was none of the magic he performed at Texas A&M. Farmer, though, is convinced Manziel has skills.
"I think he can be consistently accurate with the football," he said. "He has mobility to escape the pocket, and I do think that his desire and his competitiveness give him an edge that a lot of players don't have."
GORDON GONE? WR Josh Gordon's days with the Browns appear numbered. A Pro Bowler last season, he returned from a 10-game league suspension and contributed little before the team suspended him for the finale.
Farmer would not say Gordon is a "lost cause," but he didn't say he would fight for him either. The Browns will decide his fate soon enough.
FIRST CHOICE: Farmer emphatically denied that owner Jimmy Haslam picked Manziel. It's been long assumed Haslam swayed the choice, but Farmer said that's not true.
"For the world to hear, Jimmy Haslam did not make that call," Farmer said. "He didn't try to influence the decision. He didn't try to push it in a different direction. He did none of those things."
BRIAN'S SONG: QB Brian Hoyer removed the nameplate above his locker, just in case he's not re-signed by the Browns. The Cleveland native, who won 10 games in two seasons, is a free agent and said he would be willing to come back.
Farmer did not rule out Hoyer being a future option.
"I'd say if he wants to be back that leverage is definitely in his court to make that happen," Farmer said.
PETTINE'S PERFORMANCE: Mike Pettine's first year as coach wasn't flawless, but Farmer felt he did an "excellent" job.
The Browns were 7-4 and in playoff contention before a five-game slide to end the season. Farmer felt Pettine had his player's attention all year. "The guys in the locker room respect him," Farmer said. "They play their hearts out for him."
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